Are Headphones Bad For Your Brain?

So, you’ve been using your headphones a lot lately, and you noticed a pain in your ears. After a little bit of research, you found out that headphones can affect your brain too. Is that true? This is a common concern, so we’ll be answering: Are headphones bad for your brain?

The brain is not directly affected by headphones. Unhealthy headphones habits can lead to hearing loss and ear infections. The damage to the ear can lead to nerve damage in the brain, although unlikely.

All of this can sound scary, and I understand why. Hopefully, with the following explanation, I can put your mind at ease.

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on the subject. I’m just staying up to date with new discoveries. This post is a sum of research done on the subject.

How Do Headphones Affect The Brain

Now, don’t think of this like headphones zap your brain or something. Headphones only affect the ear. This is widely known, and there’s evidence that using headphones leads to ear infections.

And that’s just the thing. The ear is closely connected with the brain. So, in some cases, when the ear is damaged, the brain can be affected too. Fortunately, it’s nothing serious, and if the inappropriate use of headphones is stopped, the damage will be minimized.

Related article – Are Over Ear Headphones Bad For You?

Brain on blue background

Loud Volume And Effect On Ears

The biggest concern with headphones is that users tend to listen at loud volumes. Recently, efforts are made to raise awareness about the dangers of loud volume. Headphone users still choose to crank up the volume.

How can listening to loud volumes affect your ears? Well, the human ear can only take up to 90 decibels without being damaged. It’s different for anyone, and in most cases the damage is reversible. Anything more than 120 decibels damages the ears beyond repair.

The recommended number of decibels for headphones is 85 decibels. You can see that it’s slightly lower than the max decibels the ears can take. That’s because the number of decibels isn’t the only thing that matters, time matters too.

Not following these recommendations can lead to a damaged eardrum and hearing loss.

It is recommended one listening period last 90 minutes if you’re listening to 85 decibels. Raising the volume means that you have to decrease the listening period.

Can Loud Headphones Damage Your Brain?

It all depends on how loud the headphones are. Anything from 80 to 100 decibels won’t affect your brain at all. Anything above that, especially 120 decibels, can lead to nerve tissue damage.

Headphones damaging your brain is an unlikely event though. What’s more likely is that you’ll feel dizziness. The pressure from the loud sounds can make you disoriented.

User listening to loud music on headphones

Headphones Causing Ear Infections

Ear infections are probably the most common side effect of using headphones. I still wouldn’t blame the headphones though, it’s just that they are not used correctly.

Both headphones and earbud seal off the ear. That means that there’s no air getting in. And that’s not the natural environment for the ears. Using headphones increases the chance of bacteria growing in the ears.

This leads to ear infections. However, ear infections only occur from regularly using headphones for long listening periods. Taking breaks between listening periods, and changing to shorter periods decreases the chances of ear infections.

Can Ear Infections Damage Your Brain?

It’s very unlikely that the ear infection will spread to the brain. Ear infections only damage the bone of the ear. You’ll have to ignore the infection for quite some time for it to spread to the brain. Even then, damage to the brain is very rare.

Pain In Ears

I’m sure that you’ve noticed a sharp pain in your ears after an intense gaming session or studying session. That is if you had your headphones on.

The thing is, most people use headphones that do not quite fit rightly. Because of that, you may feel numbness and pain in your ear. After using the headphones for a long period of time.

Man with ear ache

Can Headphones Radiation Affect Your Brain?

If you didn’t know, yes, headphones emit radiation. It’s called non-ionizing low-level radiation. We’ve already covered this in another article. Can this damage your brain?

Although there are some discussions about this, the radiation from headphones can’t hurt your brain. The radiation energy is too weak. Also, the skull of humans is thick, so the radiation can’t get to the brain.

We’ve gone through the side effects of using headphones. What can you do about it?

Related Article – Can Headphones Cause Cancer?

How To Avoid Damaging Ears With Headphones

Let me make something clear here. All of these “side effects” of using headphones are by no means a necessity. They occur because people use headphones irresponsibly. Most of the time this turns into a habit.

Think of it like this, everything you buy has a right and wrong way to be used. It’s the same with headphones. Listening to loud volumes, and using headphones for long periods of time is a big “no-no”. You can avoid all of this by following this guide.

  1. Follow the 80/90 rule.
    The 80/90 rule means your listening period is limited to 90 minutes for volumes around 85 decibels. It’s really easy to follow this rule and it makes sure your ears stay healthy. If you raise the volume, you need to limit the period even more. Keep in mind, that it’s not recommended to raise the volume more than 90 decibels which is 60-70% of the speaker’s volume.
  2. Always choose headphones with active noise cancelation.
    We’ve said that listening to loud volumes is the problem most of the time. Usually, you raise the volume when you’re in a noisy environment. Well, with active noise cancelation there’s no need to raise the volume. Because the noises from the environment are blocked out, what you would consider low volume, will be quite enough. I highly recommend getting a pair of earbuds or headphones with active noise cancelation.
  3. Switch to headphones instead of earbuds.
    I know there are a lot of earbuds fans among you, understandably so. There are some features that earbuds have but headphones don’t. However, earbuds are more likely to cause ear infections and hearing loss. That’s because earbuds are closer to the ear. Also, noise-cancellation is worse with earbuds, so you have to raise the volume more often.
  4. Find headphones that are comfortable for you.
    You can avoid the unpleasant pain that comes with headphones if you choose a comfortable pair. I know that finding the right size of headphones can take a bit of effort but it’s worth it. If you’re using headphones regularly, I highly recommend a comfortable pair.

Related Article – How Do Noise Canceling Headphones Work?

Kids listening to loud music

Related Questions And Other FAQs

Which Is Worse For You Earbuds Or Headphones

Earbuds are more likely to damage your hearing or cause an infection. They are closer to the ear and have worse noise cancelation. You will be forced to raise the volume. Headphones have better noise cancelation and the speakers are not right in your ear.

How Long Is Too Long To Wear Headphones

I would say no more than 90 minutes. However, I know that 90 minutes is not realistic. So, I would say no more than 2 hours with breaks in between. Of course, what you’re listening to matters. If you’re light gaming or just talking, more than 2 hours is okay.

Hi there, I'm Andrej. I've always been an electronic devices addict, especially audio devices like headphones, earbuds, and headsets. I am staying up-to-date with the technology, so why not write about what you know? I'll share some useful tips about all your headphones related questions.